The Russian Anti-Corruption Campaign: Public Relations, Politics or Substantive Change?

Published date01 June 2010
Date01 June 2010
AuthorRosalia Gitau,Ethan S. Burger
Subject MatterArticle
218 Intersentia
tHe RUssIAn AntI-CoRRUPtIon
PoLItICs oR sUBstAntIVe CHAnge?
E S. B* and R G**
Corruption i s a foreign word, but its very manifest ation
has acquired ver itably Russian magnitudes . e corrosive
eect of bribe ry not only undermines the state me chanism,
it kills the faith of citiz ens in the fairness of state power.
Aleksandr I . Bastrykin1
roughout Russian history, certain members of the country’s economic and political
elite hoped t hat the state cou ld evolve into a polit y based on t he rule of law; in each
instance such optimism was eit her quashed by the aut horities or not realiz ed due to
the elite’s inabil ity to develop a c oalition c apable of forcing change. Today, many
observers of the Russian scene are debating if a dynamic and non-controllable process
is underway. is process cou ld ultimately lead to fundamental legal and politic al
changes in Russia, which protects both human and property rights, but also lays the
foundation for long-term economic, political and social stability. It is within this
context that we exam ine President Dmitrii Medvedev’s campaign a gainst corruption
– a key element of his modernization and lega l reform programs.2
* Adjunct Professor Georgetow n University Law Center, Washington, D.C. and Fellow, the Centre for
Transnational Cr ime Prevention, University of Wollongon g, Wollongong, Australia .
** Contributing Ed itor, Trans parency Internationa l A nti-Corruption Resea rch Network and J.D.,
New York University School of Law, New York, New York.
1 Firs t Deputy of the Procurator General of the Ru ssian Feder ation Chair man of the Invest igative
Committee u nder the Auspices of t he Procuracy of t he Russian Federation S tate Advisor of Justic e
1st Class.
2 Eur asia Center’s Website, e End Seems Near for the Put in Model, February 26, 2010, at www.
eu-russiacentr See also Auth ors Unidentied , Medvedev poobeshchal reformu MVD I opiat’
prizval Ross iiu k modernizat sii [Medvedev promises re form of the MVD a nd again cal ls Russia for
Modernizat ion], December 24, 2009, at ww
e Russian Ant i-Corruption Campa ign: Public Relation s, Politics or Substant ive Change?
New Journal of Eur opean Crimina l Law, Vol. 1, Issue 2, 2010 219
e Russian citizenry has long regarded publicly-orchestrated, anti-corruption
campaigns with considerable ske pticism and low expectations. In the early 1980s,
General Secreta ry of the Communist Party of the Sov iet Union Yuri Andropov
initiated a short-lived crackdown against corruption. Former Russian Presidents Boris
Yeltsin and Vlad imir Putin proclaimed that combating corruption wa s a priority of
their presidencies. Nonetheless , the corr uption situation u nder their re spective
leaderships did not result in notable improvements; in fact, just the opposite
During his conrmation hearing, M r. Putin’s last Pri me Minister, Victor Zubkov
described “corruption” as “posing as existential threat” which was capable of “sinking”
Russia.3 Mr. Zubkov seemed to appreciate t hat corrupt ion permeated all levels of
Russian society but he lacked t he desire to change the situation.4
In 2009, Russian President Medvedev seemed to have begun a break with the past.
Apparently, he had come to appreciate that corruption was t he principal obstacle
preventing the modern ization of the Russian ec onomic, legal and political system
Indeed, the country’s very future might be in jeopardy if he fails to achieve his
purported goal.
Perhaps, Mr. Medvedev ha s unleashed forces th at he cannot control. To date, his
most dramat ic eort has b een to re 18 sen ior ocials with in the Russian Ministry
for Internal A airs (MVD).5 It is premature to assess t he long-term eect of th is
“purge” of some senior M VD ocial s.6 In some cases, t he persons who lost their
3 Rober t Coalson, Russia: Political Envir onment Dooms Bid To Fight Corruption, Radio Free Europe/
Radio Liber ty Report, Septemb er 21, 2007, at
4 See Aut hor Unidentied, “Russian Fede ration Press, Media, TV, Radio, Newspapers – newspaper,
television, news, circ ulation, stations, papers , number, print, freedom, mass media, broadcas ting, at
www.pressreferenc and Peter Kneen, Polit ical c orruption i n Russia and the Sov iet Legac y,
Crime, Law a nd Social Change , Volume 34, Number 4, Decembe r 2000, at 349–367. See al so David
Remnick, L enin’s Tomb: e Last Days of the Soviet Empire (1994), William A. Clark, Cri me and
Punishment in Sov iet Ocia ldom: Combating Corruption in t he Political Elite, 1965–1990
(Contemporary S oviet/Post-Soviet Politics) (1993) and Konstant in Simis, USSR : e Corrupt
Society: e S ecret World of Soviet Capitali sm (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1982).
5 Author Unidentied , War on Corrupt ion – the Great Purge at [the] MVD, e Russia Monitor,
February 19, 2010, at www.the See al so, Author Unidentied, Medvede va i
Putina prosit sokhra nit’ depar tment MV D [Medvedev and Puti n promise to preser ve the MVD],
January 1, 2010,, at htt p:www/pravo/ru Mark Ga leotti, ree Reasons W hy Russia’s Police
Remain Unreformed, Radio Free Eu rope/Radio Liberty, October 6, 2 009, at http:ww,
Mark Galeott i, Medvedev’s Police Reform is More About Control tha n Reform, Radio Free Europe/
Radio L iberty R eport, Janu ary 7, 2010, at www.rfe, and Vladimir Frolov, ed., Russia Pro le
Weekly Experts Panel: Medvedev’s War on Russia’s Police , Russia Prole, Februar y 27, 2 010, at
6 Cat herine Belton and Charle s Clover, Medvedev Sacks 18 Police to Launch A nti-Corruption Dri ve,
e Fi nancial Times, February 19, 2010, and Aut hor Unidenti ed, Medve dev dis charges 15 top
Russian polic e generals – Kremli n, RIA Novosti, Febru ary 18, 2010.
Ethan S. Bur ger and Rosalia Gitau
220 Intersentia
positions have been implicated in corr uption scandals whereas others are being
replaced in response to their i neectiveness.7
Many long-standing obs ervers of Russian governmental actions remain skeptical
about Mr. Medvedev’s anti-corruption eorts. ey see the creation of state-sponsored
non-governmental organizations (NGOs) as evidence of the Russian government’s
eort to keep the campaign within “acceptable lim its” and are beholden or co-optable
by state power.8 Consequently, state ocia ls will prevent “true reform” and they will
avoid becoming accountable to the public in any forma l manner.9
In February 2010, President Medvedev i ssued E dict 208, ring Deputy MVD
Ministers Nikola i Ovchinnikov and Arkady Edelev.10 Ironical ly, President Medvedev
praised MVD Minister Rash id Nurgaliev as if to suggest that he was satised with Mr.
Nurgaliev’s performance. One can only speculate, whether Mr. Medvedev will nd a
new head of the MVD in the near future. Audit Chamber Head Stepashin is sometimes
identied as Mr. Nurgaliev’s probably successor. Many of President Medvedev’s recent
actions in implementing t he anti-corruption campaign wou ld seem to support this
vie w.11
While elimi nating some Putin-era senior MVD ocials, President Medvedev
simultaneously issued an edict reorganizing the MVD’s structu re (e.g. dow nsizing
MVD Headquarters sta from nearly 20,000 to 10,000 individuals) and depriving it of
some of its functions. Mr. Medvedev also appointed two new MVD Deputy Minist ers
Sergei Gerasimov and Sergei Bulavin. Mr. Gerasimov had served as Deputy Procurator
General before joi ning the Presidential Administration. Mr. Bul avin had served a s a
7 e eec t that such rings have on Russia’s corr uption problem may be misleading ; R ussian
Prosecutor-Gene ral Yury Chaika has said that Russi an law en forcement has only managed to
approach pet ty briber y whilst large-scale corruption re mains th riving. BBC Monitoring, Russian
Prosecutor says on ly Petty Bribery Be ing Tackled, Real Cor ruption rives, Ma rch 4, 2010.
8 See Paul Goble , Moscow Setting Up Ever More GONGOs to Sow Conf usion and Allow Corrupt ion,
Windows on Eurasia , February 24, 2010, at htt p://windowoneurasia.blogsp
9 Nik olai Petrov, Cosmet ic Police Reforms , Moscow Times, February 24, 2010, at www.
10 Russian P residential Website, “On the dism issal from [their] posts of workers of the bodies of t he
Internal Aairs Ministry of the Russian Federation” a nd Author Unid entied, e Work for t he
Reforming of the MVD, [wi ll] remai n under the person al control of the President] Febr uary 18,
2010, at http://news.kreml
11 Anatasiya Kornia, Natal ’ia Kos tenko, A leksei Nikol’skii, Vera Khol mogorova, M VD por ucheno
Stepashinu, Vedomosti, Januar y 22, 2010, at w See als o Aut hor Unidentied,
[MVD Ministe r and the Head of the Audit C hamber soon with Sw itch Posts, Special Letter, March
1, 2010, at www.speclet and Nasha sluzhba [Ou r Service] Website, Stepa shin and Nurgalie v
shall cha nge places of work, March 1, 2010, at http://law-enforce

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